Some mildly Annoyed notes

Library Journal approached someone who apparently knows that person (or group of persons) blogging as The Annoyed Librarian and offered to host (and pay!) AL’s thoughts. And so it was said, and so it was.

That appears to have discombobulated some folks. I’m not entirely sure why–but I read the comments in various spaces, thought about it, and eventually added a comment to David Lee King’s post on the subject.

Here’s a somewhat expanded set of notes on what’s really not a very important topic (“So what else is new at Walt at Random?” I hear sensible folks saying)…

First comes envy

Oh, c’mon. Whoever (or whatever, or whatever group) puts out Annoyed Librarian has a paying gig. And if the persona is to believed at all, she/he/they also ha(s|ve) a safe daytime job. Sitting here with a, shall we say, modest part-time income, how could I not be a little envious?

Would I accept an offer to host and pay for the stuff that appears here? Such an offer seems unlikely, so it’s more-or-less moot. I would love to have the kind of sponsorship that would include the research I love doing in the library field (so that, for example, I could comfortably give away The Liblog Landscape and do a newer and better version of my two library-blog studies), but that also seems unlikely. Such is life.

Then comes bemusement

Looking at various comments, here’s some of what I see that is a little bemusing:

  • One person believes that a blog that began in February 2006 disappeared “years ago,” which would be quite a trick.
  • A few people seem to question the practices of 18% of library-related bloggers (among the 607 in the study I’m working on), that is, not disclosing their full names on their blogs.
  • A bunch of people don’t distinguish between pseudonymity and anonymity. They’re not the same thing. Pseudonymity for controversial statements has a long history, and was certainly part of the American revolution.
  • Of course, pseudonymous and anonymous statements do not gain any gravitas from the person making them (except to the extent that a pseudonymous writer establishes it through the words themselves). Does that make the words useless? No–it makes them different. There are bloggers whose work I admire and where I really have no idea whether the claimed name is real or who the person is.
  • Someone assumes that AL is actually a group effort because there’s so much of it. Really? In my 2008 study period (March-May 2008), looking at overall word count and omitting some very prolific blogs that can’t be measured, Annoyed Librarian comes in at #78–and only 16 of the 77 liblogs with more text during that period are group blogs, so AL comes in #62 of (presumably) single-author blogs. Heck, I wrote more during that period than AL did–and that’s just in the blog, quite apart from three columns and three issues of Cites & Insights during that period (and my work-related writing, to be sure). So, for example, did Iris Jastram, John Miedema, Connie Crosby, Karen Schneider, Angel Rivera (in his “Gypsy” persona), Wayne Bivens-Tatum, Dorothea Salo, Stephen Abram, John Dupuis, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Doug Johnson… If you prefer length per post, at least 17 single-author blogs averaged longer posts.
  • I’m not saying AL couldn’t be a group–I have no more idea who or what she/he/it/they might be than you do–but post frequency (AL wasn’t even in the top 40% of liblogs for number of posts) and length of posts certainly don’t suggest it. The consistent style (more or less) argues against a group.
  • One of AL’s fans claims that AL gets “hundreds” of comments per post. Not true–although in the 2008 study period AL did have the most posts per comment (not true in 2007). The average for March-May 2008 was 53 comments per post–a lot, to be sure, but hardly “hundreds.”

Finally come random comments

Seems to me that if you don’t find AL’s stuff worth reading, there’s an easy solution, whether it’s on LJ’s platform or elsewhere. Don’t read it. (LJ’s platform mostly makes it more difficult to follow the blog and comments; that’s a different problem.)

I certainly don’t believe that being on LJ’s platform gives posts added weight. That would be akin to believing LJ Movers & Shakers were actually more important than anyone else and deserving of deference. (I don’t believe that either. There are lots of great people in that group, but also lots of great people who won’t ever be named. There are also lots of good people with truly insightful comments on certain topics–and maybe I treasure them even more.)

I disagree with AL on lots of things (for example, the OIF and Washington Office are two big reasons I’m still an ALA member). I couldn’t write in the style they/he/she it uses. For that matter, I don’t think I could or would write anonymously/pseudonymously…my so-called style is a little too distinctive. But I’m not ready to put down AL or others because they choose to do so.

If the content stinks to your particular nose, that’s different–and then you should simply ignore it. Isn’t that the best advice in general?

Jeff Scott adds different and useful perspectives on this issue non-issue at Gather No Dust. (We do all know that AL’s 30th floor office is as real as the 25th floor penthouse at the Googleplex in which I craft Walt at Random, right?)

10 Responses to “Some mildly Annoyed notes”

  1. Steve Lawson says:

    My thoughts are very similar to yours. On the one hand it seems an odd move on LJ’s part, because the AL can be so abrasive. On the other hand, Reed Elsevier Inc. isn’t in the Library Journal business just for fun. They obviously believe that the Annoyed Librarian will bring in the pageviews.

    On the one hand (third hand?) this is a great move for the Annoyed Librarian as he/she’s now making money off the enterprise. The fourth hand, though, wonders why anyone would want to be published on that nightmare of a publishing platform that LJ calls a website. Sure, people are hitting it now, but I think readership is bound to fall off just because the site is so annoying.

  2. Steve Lawson says:

    Case in point: they messed up the feed url on their lame page of feeds. AUTODISCOVERY anyone?

  3. walt says:

    Feed URL? A working feed URL for an LJ/SLJ blog? I’ve pretty much given up on such fantasies…

    Yeah, I sent email to AL noting that they/he/it/she was/were now on what may be the world’s worst blog/comment site. Oh well, if I ever do another Liblog Landscape, it makes it easier: It’s pretty much impossible to get metrics for LJ/SLJ blogs.

  4. LizB says:

    I was going to post on AL being on LJ, but you’ve made almost all the points I was going to make. I also think any organization that just agrees with each other to be unhealthy; so I think those who disagree need a platform.

  5. Angel says:

    You do pretty much express my thoughts: if people do not like it, or it is just not their cup of tea, then don’t read it. I did go over and look at her (?) blog on LJ, and at least one commenter griped about having to see some worthless text and wasting the time to read it. My thought was: then why did you read it in the first place, then waste the time to point it out? Life would be so much easier if people took your advice.

    As always, best, and keep on blogging.

  6. Andrew says:

    Thankyou, Walt. An excellent and sensible post on the matter.

  7. Walt, good breakdown on the hype. I concur with most of what you’re saying, especially about it being, on the whole, a relatively unimportant topic. The one place I might disagree is whether being on LJ gives the AL posts added weight.

    The M&S analogy isn’t quite right to me. To me, it’s not that being named a Mover and Shaker might make the designee more important. It’s that a Movers and Shakers list produced by LJ has more weight than a Movers and Shakers list that a random blogger generates and posts on their blog.

    LJ is a leading publication in our field. If being on their payroll doesn’t lend some form of credibility to an author, I’m not sure what would. It’s not going to change my perspective, as someone already well-familiar with the AL, but I think a newcomer might indeed give more credence to an LJ-published blogger than your average Blogspot blog. Maybe I’m wrong.

  8. walt says:

    Thanks, all: I almost didn’t write this post, but I’m now glad I did.

    Greg: I’m not sure what to say, but here’s an attempt…

    No, in fact, I don’t believe that paid status adds credibility to AL’s opinions any more than Library Stuff’s sponsored status adds credibility to Cohen’s comments. I don’t believe Library Stuff posts have more credibility than, say, Information Wants to be Free or LibrarianInBlack or Walt at Random or Open Space, none of which happen to be sponsored (as far as I know). Nor do I believe Roy Tennant’s blog or John Berry’s blog have more credibility than any of those I’ve named.

    To anybody who’s giving credence to any liblogs, credibility comes from what’s being said and from the author’s track record. Pseudonymous blogs have to rely entirely on their internal record, since they can’t gain credibility from authors’ track records. “Credence” and credibility are tricky things here–unless you’re dealing with factual issues, which AL rarely does. We’re talking gravitas or importance, and there I really don’t believe LJ’s sponsorship does (or at least should) make much difference.

    As for the analogy: Yes, if you’re talking about “a random blogger”–and I’m not sure that’s such a good thing.

    Would a list of Movers and Shakers generated and posted by, say, Jessamyn West or Meredith Farkas or Steven Bell (all cases where they’d probably state their methodology and, I believe, have solidly established their credibility) have importance similar to one published by LJ? Maybe not–but I’m not entirely clear why it shouldn’t.

  9. Yeah, I guess I’m thinking that it’s not about whether it should make a difference. I agree with you there. It shouldn’t and, for me, it really doesn’t. My suspicion though is that someone who is new to the library lit will regard an LJ blog differently than an independent blog. I’m pretty sure that the person I was in library school would have.

    I would also note that Library Stuff, despite its header, looks far more independent and, to the non-critical eye, might not even be recognizable as an ITI-sponsored blog. AL, on the other hand, is clearly a part of the LJ site now. Feels much different to me. But LS has been part of ITI so long that perhaps I’m the one with non-critical eye.

  10. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the link Walt. Great post. I think everyone is getting really bent out of shape for no reason.

    Did anyone ever think that the Annoyed Librarian was ALREADY a paid writer for Library Journal? (lot’s of suspects there).